She’s the creative force behind Double Bravo, a stationery company with a focus on memory keeping and travel. She is also a Brooklyn mother of two, daughter Django (age 7) and son Pablo (age 4). We first met at the public school our children attend, and I could tell right away she was someone I would enjoy getting to know better.
What inspired you to start Double Bravo?
I moved from country to country every 3 years when growing up. Keeping in touch by mail was the way to keep in touch with my friends…to be in touch to share new adventures to plan reunions…it kept me anchored in my jetsetting youth of passports and visas. I was always writing letters and visiting post offices. That I should turn that into a business has come of no surprise to friends from those days long ago who have all responded ‘of course!!!’ and ‘hooray!’
I read Alain de Botton’s short book called A Week at the Airport that was commissioned by British Airways. They asked him to spend a week living in Heathrow and it really made me realize what an usually porous and odd space it is and thus on my time spent in this strange undefined space.
For me letter writing – designing what to send and how to express what new land I was in was my antidote to the ethereal atmosphere that de Botton so deftly describes. Tangible letters/symbols/proof of loved ones and connections to them. Gone is the golden age of travel but yet it is still something that people get excited about.
On a bigger scale travel is just seeing the way people do things in other places – I find it pretty amazing. I think what is amazing about the way people do things in other places is what rises to the surface is the truth of whatever the goal is. We are all trying to do things in different ways but we all want to do what is best for our children, what is best for each other, we all want to be treated with respect. I see the similarities more than the differences.
On the topic of travel do you have any favorite travel memory with your kids?
One memorable trip was when I went to a wedding in San Francisco with Django, just the two of us. She was only in kindergarten but she still talks about that trip about once a month! It was a really amazing trip and she has all these strong memories…I think there is something really special about traveling with just one child.
Will you plan a solo trip with your son?
Yes, in fact since Pablo is starting kindergarten in the fall I am already wondering where we should go. Someplace where it is just he and I, not visiting family, since I think part of the appeal was just figuring out what to do together.
Are there other things, besides travel, that have special meaning for you with regard to Double Bravo?
Sure! Ever since I was a child I have been a letter writer. Moving from country to country I kept in touch with friends via letter writing. Now, if I don’t drop a letter in the mailbox when I am picking up the kids at school it is really unusual and leaves me feeling I’ve missed an opportunity — to reach out, to make someone smile, to connect.
I do love though how the internet allows us to reconnect with friends far away – a new friend for our family has been my dad’s childhood friends who he’d lost touch with. They live in Lisse, Holland now so post from Holland is often found in our post box which is a super way to reconnect with the past – they’ve sent us many treats including a recipe for kroketten – dutch croquettes – very yummy! Apparently they aren’t made from scratch much these days, ubiquitous as they are in the frozen food aisle of supermarkets in Holland.
Another thing is that I don’t have a very good memory. Many of the memory keeping card ideas are inspired by my children, since I am so aware of how precious they are and how fleeting this time is. I want to remember these moments: their mispronunciations, birthdays and Halloween.
I see this love and obsession being passed on to my kids. My son has always been obsessed with trucks. He would observe them on the streets and speculate, “that one could be dropping off a package, that one could be picking up the mail.” One day I got a package from a friend in Vienna that included a little postal truck toy — it immediately became Pablo’s prized possession. Of all the trucks and cars he has collected over the years this one is the clear favorite.
You mentioned your friend’s croquette recipe…do you do the cooking in your family? And, if so, are there favorite dishes that reappear often?
I do most of the cooking although Ted has a few specialties too. He always makes pancakes on the weekends, and every so often he makes fried chicken as a special treat. I usually cook a lot at once so I don’t have to cook everyday. We eat lots of vegetables and I often make croquettes – my father is Dutch and my mother is Chilean so they are a part of our culinary tradition on both sides.
Do you have any special birthday traditions in your family?
Yes, we absolutely do! A few years ago I asked Django what she would like to do for her birthday and she responded, “Cake, in bed, for breakfast!” It was such a wonderful thing that it has been our family tradition ever since. Another tradition that we have is that every year on my birthday we go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love seeing the kid’s familiarity with it now.
How do you feel about goody bags at birthday parties?
We all have so much already that I really don’t think we need to any more stuff. I think maybe we would all reflect on the specialness of the party more if there was less focus on goody bags. That said, I usually give each child a small book as a favor.
What is a typical weekend like for you?
The weekend always starts with pancakes. I always grab the thinnest one (I think that is a Dutch thing) and spread jam on it. We live right near a park so Ted takes the kids out after breakfast and that is when I get a fair amount of work done. Sundays we usually do a family adventure. Adventure is a huge word in our house. The one thing I am really happy about for the children is that they are tree climbers. We found a couple low branches in Prospect Park and now I find them perching up the tree like monkeys. It makes me breathe easy. Living in a typical small city apartment I love getting them outdoors.
Do you have other family rituals?
At bedtime we always ask what did you like about your day and what did you not like about your day. I find after school is not the best time to talk about school – bedtime is better. I share my best and worst things too. I don’t like ending on a negative so I try to think about that too.
What is the best parenting advice you ever got?
Just to observe your children. Good parenting follows when you see what they need and like. I also really enjoyed a book by John Holt called Learning all the Time.He reminds us to not limit our ideas about learning to school but to recognize that there are opportunities for learning everywhere.
How do you feel about screen time?
Screen time, you know, it is limited. One thing is that when they watch movies they watch them in Spanish. For the first 4 years of Django’s life we only spoke Spanish at home. My husband is from Chicago but he is fluent in Spanish too. When Pablo was born Django was just on the precipice of kindergarten and the English explosion happened so it started slipping. Pablo’s first language is Spanish too but one of the ways of limiting screen time while reinforcing Spanish is to maintain this rule.
One of the things I find trickier to manage is our little mobile units. We may all be reading or resting and then I see that telltale glow…when I ask what it is it is often Scrabble. I don’t know why that bothers me but it does. We have the Scrabble board game…why can’t we play with that?
Do you have a proudest parenting moment?
Hearing the kids talk to each other about how someone might be feeling, or about emotional situations, is something that I love. One thing they had in Django’s kindergarten class is “the comforter.” I wish they had it in every single grade…I mean who doesn’t need a comforter? If someone has an injury then the comforter is summoned over to comfort that person. I love it! It is such a beautiful thing. We have applied this at home too – if you have hurt someone’s feelings not only do you find out if they are ok but you then have to do something that they would like you to do. “What can I do that would be nice for you or to make you feel better?” At school the answer was often “water.” At home now the answer is often to ask for help finding a lost toy.
Is there something on your to-do list that never gets done?
One thing I succeed in doing is rearranging the art on the walls. I follow a sort of Victorian inspiration of covering the walls. One thing that I don’t seem to get to is sorting out the kids artwork.
I also have several bins of baby clothes that are in need of sorting and I never seem to get to that. Maybe I am holding on for sentimental reasons…it is hard to let go of things from this precious time.
Do you have favorite books for you? For the kids?
For the kids I love this series Boo and Baa written by a Swedish husband and wife team. They are these two sheep, the drawings are beautiful, and I don’t know if it is the Scandinavian Spartan choice of words but there is a lot unsaid in the sentence that everyone understands. Beautiful.
For me, it changes. Sometimes I go the classic way. I really like the travel writings of Bruce Chatwin. But then I love Salman Rushdie. I love Alain de Botton as I mentioned. I love what he has to say about the world.
What kind of music are you listening to these days?
We listen to lots of Spanish music. I also love the Putamayo world collections. We tend to listen to summer music in the winter and vice versa…This winter it was all about the Beach boys and one July we nearly wore out a Charlie Brown Christmas disk!
Do you have favorite blogs, websites, etc.
I like my Twitter feed a lot. I love Swiss-Miss and Design Sponge – although it makes me feel like our apartment is falling apart a bit! I tend to listen to a lot of audio stuff when I am working. I love Teri Gross and am addicted to Fresh Air. I like the TED lecture series.
Do you have a special beauty routine, or anything you do when you want to feel great?
I really need – and enjoy! – time in the sun as unpopular as that response might be! Another key touchstone for recharging when I need to gain perspective is time by the ocean. I don’t need to go to Nice! Just going to the Rockaways for the day can do the trick.